x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Tennis round-up: Nadal beats Djokovic, Serena enters final

Another gruelling semi-final match between arch rivals in men's tennis, this time in the Rogers Cup at Montreal.

Rafael Nadal followed up his French Open semi-final win over Novak Djokovic with another one in Montreal.
Rafael Nadal followed up his French Open semi-final win over Novak Djokovic with another one in Montreal.

Spain's Rafael Nadal handed Novak Djokovic another semi-final defeat when he beat the world No 1 at the Rogers Cup on Saturday to set up a title decider against local favourite Milos Raonic.

Nadal held off a surging Djokovic to win 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 in a pulsating semi-final that resembled a heavyweight boxing clash with the duo trading breathtaking winners instead of blows.

The victory was Nadal's second successive over Djokovic at this stage of a tournament following his epic five-set triumph on the clay at the French Open in June.

"I tried my best in the tiebreaker," said Nadal, winner of seven titles this season. "I had to hit some fantastic shots to compete well against a big player like Novak. I'm very, very satisfied."

Nadal let the second set slip as he lost the eighth game from a position of strength, letting go of a 40-0 lead to drop serve and trail 3-5.

"You cannot let up against the top players for even a minute," said Nadal, whose 57 career titles include a dozen grand slam titles.

Djokovic's defeat ended a 13-match win streak in Canada for the Serbian, who also won the title in 2007 before his back-to-back triumphs in 2011 and 2012.

"It was a very close match, there were very few points that decided the winner," Djokovic said. "I had my chances. He had his chances, at the end he played better.

"I made a lot of double faults, which I couldn't explain, in the first set especially. After that I served well in the important moments. But he returned quite well. He was staying closer to the line and picking up the returns really, really well."

Raonic had earlier advanced to his first Masters series final when he recovered from a mid-match slump to win a third set tiebreak 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 against wildcard and compatriot Vasek Pospisil.

"I'm very happy at this moment," said the world No 13 Raonic, who will move into the world's top 10 for the first time after reaching the final. "It's [top-10 ranking] been a very important thing for me, a big objective."

Raonic needed all his superior experience to win through, as Pospisil, ranked 71st, fought from a set down to nearly pull off an upset.

Raonic made the more assured start in front of a large and vocal crowd, basking in the knowledge that a Canadian winner was assured.

A solitary break of serve was all that separated the two in the opening set as Pospisil adopted an aggressive approach that produced mixed results.

He capitalised on some sloppy play from Raonic to win the second set and force a decider that went the distance.

Both players traded winners from all parts of the court before Raonic sealed victory as he became the first Canadian in more than 50 years to reach the final.

Serena beats Radwanska

Top seed Serena Williams shook off a spirited attempt by Agnieszka Radwanska and moved into the final of the Rogers Cup with a 7-6, 6-4 victory on Saturday and will meet Romania's Sorana Cirstea, whose surprising run continued when she beat China's Li Na 6-1, 7-6.

The American held a 5-0 record against Radwanska coming into the match, but the Pole surprised the 16-time grand slam champion by being aggressive and not mixing up her shots.

"It was really close and I had my chances but wasn't really taking them," Radwanska told reporters. "It's always turning against me, especially when you play a top player.

"I was really trying to play aggressive and going forward, but she's really playing deep and strong balls. It's really hard to do anything."

Williams broke Radwanska at love to go ahead 5-4 in the first set with a heavy forehand crosscourt winner, but then was broken back at love herself when she double faulted.

Both women held to go to a tiebreak which Williams dictated and sealed it 7-3 with a forehand volley winner and big ace down the T.

Williams called the trainer in between sets for a stomach problem but said that it did not effect her play as Radwanska broke to take a 2-1 in the second set when she forced the American into a backhand error.

Radwanksa, however, could not maintain her advantage, as Williams picked up the pace, breaking back to 3-3 with a booming overhead.

While the Polish world No 4 is faster than Williams, the American stayed in most of their long rallies and serving at 4-4, she fought off a break point with a forehand crosscourt winner and then held in a long point that ended with her ripping a forehand down the line.

Williams broke Radwanska to win the match with a backhand winner and another forehand blast.

"I really tried to be more aggressive towards the end," said Williams. "I don't think I played my best, and I always knew that, worst-case scenario, I could do a little better."

Federer targets Cincinnati

Roger Federer said on Saturday that the back pain that has hindered him recently is under control, and his focus is on defending his title at the Cincinnati Masters.

The Swiss, who celebrated his 32nd birthday on the practice court in the muggy Midwest venue on Thursday, is counting on "passion" to re-ignite his tennis after Wimbledon disappointment followed by injury-plagued weeks on the clay courts in Hamburg and Gstaad.

"My passion is sky high. If the passion doesn't overweigh all the rest, the end is extremely near," said Federer, who won his fifth Cincinnati title in 2012. "You might be doing it for the wrong reasons. But I love what I'm doing."

The fifth seed starts with a bye in the tournament that begins on Monday.

He pronounced himself "fit and mentally motivated" going into an event in which the men's field is headed by Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, and keen to "get back into playing well and getting deep into tournaments."

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